Convergence Problems by Wole Talabi provides a feast of short stories

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The thing about writing a review of an excellent anthology like Wole Talabi’s Convergence Problems is that there’s a dual desire to simultaneously focus on both the quality of the collection as a whole and the wonderful individual stories, but I’ll do my best to split the difference here. The stories contained in Convergence Problems were originally published over the course of ten years, from 2013 to just this past year. Talabi wears his themes on his sleeve with these stories: the interplay of family, culture, queer identity, and speculative futures all blend together in fifteen short stories and one novella. Some specific speculative terms recur between stories, which allows them to feel like they are all part of an ongoing tale being woven, even if some of the uses between different stories seem contradictory.

A particularly interesting story is “Saturday’s Song”, which is the sequel to “Wednesday’s Story,” which isn’t in the anthology but can be read in Lightspeed Magazine. Both tales revolve around the seven preternatural beings who are responsible for the keeping, telling, and maintaining of all the world’s stories. Named after the days of the week (or perhaps vice versa), these beings spend their time reciting stories to one another. In “Saturday’s Song,” they tell the story of Saura, who is on a quest to understand the death of her partner Mobola at the hands of the nightmare god Shigidi. In doing so, she must confront her estranged mother and take on a burdensome partnership with another god, Sarkin Sarkoki. It deals heavily with Yoruba culture and religion, and Saura’s journey is tense, fraught, and touching.

The novella, “Ganger,” is set in a post-apocalyptic future where what remains of humanity lives in massive enclosed domes to protect them from CO2-T, a nanotechnology which was meant to be the solution to climate change until it went out of control and became an even bigger problem than the one it was originally intended to solve. Laide narrates this story, starting with a suicide attempt she is prevented from completing at the age of seventeen. She is full of despair because Legba-6, the AI which runs the part of the domed city she lives in, prevents her and all the rest of the poor refugee citizens (as opposed to the rich investor citizens) from living their lives in meaningful ways. When she meets a man named Issa, she learns about a technology called ganger chips, which allow her temporarily transfer her consciousness of one of the innumerable droids which serve the city, thus hiding from Legba-6. This new independence and her alliance with Issa allows Laide to think more broadly about herself and her world, and what she might want to do to improve them both.

My favorite story, however, would have to be “Lights In The Sky.” It’s only seven pages long, but the pared down language, the second-person narration, and the emotional core of the story, which centers on a father’s love for his young daughter, held me riveted to the page, and the feeling stayed with me throughout the rest of the book. Saying much more would start to spoil the experience though, and I want everyone to read this collection.

Talabi is in full command of his language and his craft, and the stories selected for Convergence Problems are a series of individual treats that add up to a feast. The characters are deftly drawn and have understandable, and often relatable problems, the speculative aspects are grounded (even when they’re in space) and mix phenomenally well with the Nigerian cultural and spiritual elements he brings to bear, and the narrative problems he presents are thorny and engaging. I would recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys cleanly imagined science fiction, complicated and triumphant queer narratives, or plain old good writing.

Sophie is an MFA student at Emerson College. She spends her free time reading and writing science fiction and fantasy.